Learn This Easy Trick to Shift the Burden of Proof to Others

When you act like the objective authority you can be literally unreasonable.

Posted Apr 25, 2019

“Because I said so.”

Bosses don’t have to give you reasons. They can just tell you what to do. Yours is not to reason why.

Now, why is that? For efficiency within a chain of command but also because it’s assumed that superiors climbed to their positions of authority by proving that they see the bigger picture. Superiors have a wider vista, subordinates have narrower vistas. Subordinates can’t see the forest for trees; bosses see the whole forest.

Subordinates often complain about their bosses frustrating cluelessness and unreasonableness. Sometimes these complaints are justified and sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes a leader has to pessimize locally in order to optimize globally. Sure, subordinates will complain about the havoc bosses wreak, but authorities weather it since their job is to implement what’s good overall. They don’t have to make shipmates happy; they have to steer the ship.

By means of this superior/subordinate dynamic (which perhaps originates in parent/child relations), we form a habit of expectation that can bleed into social relationships among equals – romantic partnerships, sibling relations, friendships, social life, and politics: We assume that those who speak like authorities have the bigger picture, and therefore need not defend, explain or justify their opinions. They can simply declare them.

When equals talk as though they’re the pope, king, queen, supreme judge, the measure of all things, the gold standard authority, the burden of proof shifts to the people they treat as subordinates. Those who pull fake rank shift the burden of proof to those they’re talking down to.

It’s not hard to pull rank. Just drop the subjective qualifiers from your opinions. Instead of saying “I didn’t like that movie,” say “That movie sucked,” as though you’re stating an objective fact, calling a spade a spade.

People won’t notice since we often drop those subjective qualifiers anyway. When it’s raining, you don’t have to say “I believe that it’ raining.” Just say it’s raining. No one is going to accuse of pretending you’re the objective authority on the weather.

Drop the subjective qualifiers on more controversial, subjective matters and you’ll probably get away with it. You just have to watch out for people saying “That’s YOUR opinion,” but even when they do, you can ignore it and press on with your fake-objectivity

You can also pepper your declarations with a bunch common phrases that dress up your subjective opinions as objective facts from on high:

In fact,…
Of course,...
Obviously…
As a matter of fact…
I can tell you this...
Believe me…
I guarantee you…
The truth of the matter is…
Frankly…
No, you’re not seeing the whole picture…
There’s where you’re wrong…

Or, “I’ll be honest,” since people are vague the difference between honesty and truth. They forget that you can be honest and factually wrong. “He tells it like it is,” means “He speaks his mind” even if he’s out of his mind. If I honestly believed racists are Martians, I’d be speaking my mind, not telling it like it is.

It’s fun to pretend you’re the authority. It’s liberating. One of the biggest ways it liberates is often overlooked. When you play authority you can be literally unreasonable, freed from having to give reasons. When you pretend you’re the authority, you don’t have to supply justifications for your assertions. In the language of your old math teachers, you don’t have to “show your work” – how you derived your opinions. You can get your opinionated answers from any source, out your butt or off someone else’s addled mind.

You’ve no doubt experienced inequality – an unequal distribution of power, income, and resources. Perhaps you’ve experienced first-hand a widening inequality gap.

You’ve probably also experienced widening “burden of proof inequality.” If you’ve been the subordinate to someone pulling fake rank and talking down to you relentlessly, you’ve felt the burden of proof rest more and more on you, less and less on them.

If you expose such a growing disparity, the person playing fake authority can play authority on that too. Consider a religious leader who declares that He speaks for God. He will decide who is a sinner who must be punished. If you expose the arbitrariness of his authority, He can double down with a simple addition to the rule: Anyone who questions my authority is obviously a sinner who must be punished.

That same doubled-down rationale can seep into with a friend or romantic relationship.  For example, one partner pretending that they are the authority, “he or she who must be obeyed” – obeyed even on who must be obeyed.

Pulling rank is a simple powerful trick. When you enter a debate, set yourself up as the judge adjudicating the debate, and don’t let go of your high-horse seat on the bench.

It’s an awful thing to do to other people. It’s a total jerk move. It will make you dangerously anti-adaptive (since reality is the authority, not you). You’ll lose friends. They’ll keep you in the dark, and they’ll escape your insufferable, blinding, authoritarian self-aggrandizement as soon as they possibly can.

But at least you won’t have to defend, explain or justify your subjective opinions.

IMO. As with everything I write, it’s subjective – my adult, educated guesses that could be wrong.